Insult on Injury

I went for a checkup on my dodgy knee today. The good news is that the MRI showed nothing. The bad news is that my knee still hurts. So after a little discussion I’m signed up for four months of physio to see if that can fix things.

That’s the injury. The insult is that the only aerobic exercise left to me is swimming, which I strongly dislike. But if there’s one thing I dislike more than swimming, it’s swimming front crawl; I am, as those of you who know me will be unsurprised to hear, a breast-stroking man. So can you guess which stroke is not actually helping my knee, and which one I should do instead? That’s right.

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I was out all day yesterday learning how to use a Hippotizer. It’s a machine/software combination used to control video displays at concerts, plays, TV events etc. It allows you to place filters on the video, combine sources, and route them to different displays including LED boards.

It’s an impressively clever bit of technology, but what struck me most is that almost all of the clever is hidden. The app has very few arbitrary limits on it; a lot of software stops you doing certain things for perfectly good technical reasons, but from the user’s point of view there’s no obvious reason why not. The Hippotizer doesn’t really have that; it works with a certain number of inputs and outputs, but apart from that if you can think of a way to manipulate the tools it provides it will probably let you.

The second key feature is the amount of work it can do. Recent versions can handle multiple HD feeds, applying filters to each one and to the master output. That’s a huge amount of data to be slinging around, yet it manages it while keeping lag down to just one or 2 frames (they’re currently working on a feature that isn’t yet fast enough, because it lags by 5 frames, or around 1/5th of a second – too slow). And if that’s not enough, you can network multiple units together.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, I’m not on commission.

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Indian Soldiers

Soldiers from India fought bravely for Britain, a country it owed nothing, during the second world war. While I didn’t know this, it’s not too surprising that there was a subset of Indian soldiers who allied themselves with the Japanese in an attempt to drive the British out of India. I say this isn’t surprising for a few reasons. With something like a billion people, you can find a large number who would be willing to support almost anything. A dislike of an occupying force leads to sometimes unpalatable alliances. Finally, if you’re a prisoner of war of the Japanese, or trapped in Japanese-controlled Asia, then fighting a battle outside of the main thrust of the war might have seemed a pretty decent option, whoever it may have appeared to help.

What’s new to this (so new I can’t find a reference in Wikipedia, which almost means it didn’t happen) is that as well as the ‘Indian National Army’ in Asia there was the ‘Free India Legion‘ in Europe, made up of Indian soldiers captured by the Germans. They fought briefly in Holland and France, before being captured and sent back to India. The FIL was founded by Subhas Chandra Bose, who, after seeing that Hitler really wasn’t a stand-up kind of guy, went to Japan to found the INA.

Indian Nazis – sounds like a bad science fiction comic, don’t you think?

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Organ Donation

One of the UK government’s latest ideas (though it’s been kicking around for a long time) is ‘presumed consent’ for organ donation. This means that, unless the family of a dead person specifically object, doctors can harvest such organs as they see fit.

The argument in favour is simple; hundreds of people die every year who could be saved by donations from people who, quite obviously, don’t need them any more. The argument against is more abstract, but also more fundamental; my body belongs to me, not the government, and that’s true before I’m born and when I’m dead just as much as when I’m alive.

My natural reaction is to be against this idea. I’m a registered donor and my family knows it, so I have no problem with donation in general, but I really dislike the idea that the government can help itself to what it wants. In fact this struck me as an extreme, if not literal, form of communism; from each according to his ability, whether he wants to or not.

Another reason to be against it is that the fix is very simple. If you’re not a registered donor for at least a year before you’re diagnosed with a condition requiring a transplant, you don’t get one. Any time you register for something from the government, be it a birth certificate, passport or driving license, you have to make a choice about donation. No default is filled in, so you have to pick one for yourself.

Such a quick fix gives me time to tell you about the Donner Card, which reads “I would like someone to help themselves to my kebab after my death”

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Retail, then Therapy

The noted shoulder-shrugger (by birth and profession) Jean-Paul Sartre, famously said “Hell is other people”. The phrase was first published in the 1944 play ‘Huis Clos’. I respectfully submit that if he’d been to the Croydon Ikea he’d have said it much earlier.